A Little Clarity

In mid-January, after several months of feeling like it just wasn’t fun anymore, I had decided I was done with Twitter. Having a public account allowed some truly reprehensible people to show up in my mentions and spew their misery and I was tired of providing the platform which gave them access to me. The bad was starting to outweigh the good, and so I finally deleted my account, and it felt wonderful. The next day I wrote a post about why I left and it turned out someone who works in the Trust and Safety Department at Twitter read that post and emailed me about it. After a few email exchanges, we decided to talk about it further over the phone. I had a great conversation with this person, who then invited me to attend a private symposium Twitter was having for 30 representatives and leaders of organizations which assist a wide variety of communities online that deal with an absurd amount of abuse and harassment. I agreed to attend and three weeks later, I flew up to San Francisco to participate in this all day event at their headquarters.

I had mixed feelings about being part of this symposium. I felt frustrated at what seemed like a lack of support from Twitter for their users when they know all of this horrible abuse is happening on their platform. I felt sad that they didn’t provide easier ways for users to protect themselves from the attacks that constantly happen and as a result of that, I felt the only thing I could do to protect myself was to just leave it. I also felt scared and REALLY out of place once I arrived there. At the beginning of the symposium, each person attending stood up, introduced themselves, and talked about these incredible organizations they were there to represent. And then there was me. I stood up, said my name, followed by “I’m just a woman on the internet. I didn’t have a verified Twitter account, I’m not a celebrity, I’m just a woman who is passionate about rescue animals and human equality who somehow has a voice people like to listen to.” As soon as I said that out loud, I understood why I was there. There are so many people just like me who liked Twitter for the social part of it but who end up dealing with the dregs of humanity who show up in their mentions. I was there to offer my point of view, just like all the other representatives there, on how Twitter can make their platform a more user friendly and safer place to be.

I won’t bother going into all the details of the entire day but I will say I felt really good about the things we talked about. We had discussions together as well as splitting up into groups to discuss tools that would be incredibly useful to users to manage their timeline, since we all know the horrible people online are always going to be there. Everyone came up with great ideas on how Twitter could expand their own software instead of users needing other third party software companies to make our personal Twitter experience more enjoyable. I’ve known about these third party software tools for a while but for me, I felt if it ever got so bad that I needed a third party to help me manage what I see, it just wasn’t worth it anymore. If Twitter just provided this themselves, it would make the platform a simple and pleasant experience again.

One of the things suggested to me by the person I spoke with at Twitter was to just lock my account to protect my user name from being released for anyone else to use in the future. Apparently, there were some online articles written about my Twitter departure and some asshats are waiting for my user name to become available so they could pretend to be me. People sure are neat. Anyway, I did what Twitter suggested and locked my account (and deleted tons of my old tweets because who knows who follows me. Now all anyone gets to see is basically my pet pictures.) After a few weeks following my departure, I had friends suggest I also auto-link my blog and Instagram posts to Twitter since people who follow me there may not know I am still online, just on a different platform, so I did. I don’t look at Twitter, I don’t read any mentions or comments to me, and I don’t read my timeline. I know. I’m putting the “anti” in social media. How boring.

This past week, Wil and I went on the annual JoCo cruise along with 1100 super awesome nerds. This is the sixth one, and I was really excited to see new faces as well as all the old, familiar ones. But an unexpected thing happened for me. I ended up having dozens of conversations with people I’ve only interacted with on the cruise, at conventions, and on Twitter, who all came up to tell me how happy they were that I was back on Twitter. Woops. I hadn’t considered my auto-link posts would appear that I was back to actively participating in anything there, so I had to explain that I wasn’t reading anything there and I wasn’t engaging in any tweets to me. That’s when I realized I should probably write this post.

At the end of the symposium day at Twitter, I did feel that if the company could create this software to give the tools to users to make our Twitter experience what we wanted, I would probably go back to it. Once on land yesterday at the end of our cruise, I decided to look at my Twitter account to see what others see on my profile page. First, I saw that I had several follower requests. Woops. Apparently, making my account private means the only way to follow me is if I approve these requests and honestly, the only way I’d be okay with that is if I looked at each profile to make sure the person isn’t an asshole, and that isn’t something I feel like investing any time in right now. For months, the abusive attacks at me were so massive that I would make the effort to report the truly awful ones but just mute the accounts of all the others in a quick way to not see them in my mentions. I looked at that mute list (which is thousands of user names long. So long that as much as I scroll through, I still haven’t seen the end of the list) and there were dozens and dozens of those awful and abusive users actually following me. I’m assuming they’re waiting for me to post something they can run with, which is why I will continue to keep my account locked, not read any of it, and not engage with anyone in my mentions. Enjoy those pet pics, people.

I am reluctantly optimistic that Twitter will eventually create the software so many of us would love to use to have control over our Twitter experience. It may take a few months and hopefully it’ll happen before it’s too late. In the meantime, I don’t blame you for unfollowing me now that you know I’m not really there and won’t be reading what you say to me. And maybe someday I will be back on there for real when there’s a way to make it the experience it used to be for me before all of this crap started. I know there are so many wonderful people I used to interact with on Twitter and I do miss that, and I appreciate your understanding of why I’m doing this the way I’m doing it. Any of my life I choose to share online is so much better now that it’s on my own terms, and that makes all of this worth it.


9 thoughts on “A Little Clarity

  1. Hi Anne. I’d love to follow you on Twitter even if alone for links to other material. I’d be happy to trade enough personal data to let you have an indication of who I am.

  2. Well, I for one, appreciate the pet pics! (;

    But in all seriousness, I can’t even begin to imagine the frustration that this situation has caused. I still find it hard to wrap my brain around the concept that something that’s supposed to be light and fun can be harnessed and driven by reprehensible jerks, and that Twitter’s been so slow in doing something about it.

    I hope that one day, it’ll get back to the point where you’ll feel up to returning to “interactive” status, but in the meantime, I like that you’re still putting out meaningful content elsewhere.

  3. I fully understand and support your decision of turning off the Twitters. The week on the boat with no Internet was a good chance for me to reflect as well. I do miss you on Twitter, but I knew about the blog and I prefer your long form posts more.

    It was great meeting you. As I said, truly a highlight of my cruise experience.

  4. Even if you aren’t actively on Twitter, I’m extremely grateful for the lock to your Instagram account. I am not on Instagram so still getting to see updates from you in any way makes me happy.
    The lack of interaction doesn’t really affect me, since I wasn’t interacted it before. lol But I do hope Twitter is able to write the software needed to help you, and all the people who have gone through the same thing, feel comfortable there again.

  5. I was one of those folks happy to see you were back.

    Sorry to see it wasn’t in the way I first thought, but glad that you’re keeping your account so that others can’t steal it and troll as you.

    I’ll keep watching this space instead.

  6. You’ve got to do what’s best for you. I followed you on Twitter a year, maybe two ago because I was following your husband and several of your things that he retweeted I found funny, or cute or they just made me smile so I started following you for you.

    I’m lucky, I follow mostly fellow librarians and a bunch of authors and publishers and these are generally quite supportive sub-cultures. You couldn’t pay me to subject myself to the attacks that come with being a female political or gaming tweet or blogger. I do what makes me happy in my free time – which twitter falls under.

    I hope they get it together enough to give you a reason to come back. Selfishly, the other reason I enjoyed a lot of your tweets was reading about you just enjoying an apparently happy family. Some are jealous of that, but it gave me hope.

  7. As long as you keep posting pictures of the pets from time to time, I will be happy to follow your locked Twitter account!

  8. Twitter is such a double-edged sword. You meet wonderful people, and you meet asshats. Sigh. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet mostly amazing folks, but I totally understand your decision. *hugs*

  9. I have followed both you and Wil since shortly after I got on twitter. I have Seamus’ book and one of Wil’s(would like more but Wil forced me to buy so many games including Ticket to Ride featuring your train debacle…lol) I have also submitted many VandalEyes pics.(possibly a book with some of the many submissions in the future?)
    I would love to see more of you on any venue but I accept what is given and do not ever s*** on anyone I disagree with on social media.
    Both my wife and I have depression and anxiety as Wil does. I have always found his candidness and insights about this insidious disease helpful in dealing with my wife’s depression/anxiety. We have just discovered mine though it would seem it has been there for 35-40 years.
    I cannot imagine the distress the A$$holes cause you two. I can easily let it slide when it happens to me as it is just a few people, but when hundreds or even thousands do it, it must be overwhelming to say the least. I cannot wait for the day it becomes easier to control and you are back on twitter. I love your puns/wordplay.
    I admit my politics are different than yours but I do make it a policy to never(almost) comment on politics as I really do not want crap just for voicing my opinion. Though very nearly as left on social issues(women’s rights, human rights etc, I am more to the right(pretty close to center) on economic issues. When one of you ever said something I disagreed with I did this magical thing called scrolling past without comment. You are not wrong, I am not wrong. They are called opinions but more than that they are ideals. People with differing ideals coming together to decide what is best for all was what was intended from the beginning. Now instead of political opponents we have enemies. Worse than that when people disagree now we have fighting, brutality and even full blown riots. The political system we have now is a joke.
    SOrry for the long comment but there was a lot to cover.
    If you are a fan of painting you can see my artwork at… https://www.facebook.com/david.m.roaix/media_set?set=a.1026407751055.2004773.1551147130&type=3

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